(PORTLAND) — The survivor of a stabbing attack in Portland, Oregon, that left two people dead and allegedly involved hate speech told ABC News that it is the “civic duty” and “moral responsibility” of all Portland residents to make sure all who live there feel at home.
On Friday afternoon, 35-year-old suspect Jeremy Joseph Christian allegedly hurled insults at two young women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, while traveling on a commuter train. The attack happened after three men, including 21-year-old Micah Fletcher, intervened, according to police.
Fletcher said he had just left class at Portland State University and was on his way to work when he witnessed the incident on the train. He said he thought he might die that day, but decided to stand up for the two women.
“You’ve got to put your life on the line sometimes if you can afford it,” he told ABC News.
Fletcher, who was treated for serious but nonlife-threatening injuries, narrowly avoided a more serious laceration to his neck by “millimeters,” he said.
“Apparently the knife, when the gentleman stabbed me, the hilt, it hit my jawbone and broke it. And I thought it was centimeters — but apparently it was millimeters — away from my carotid artery,” he said. “It completely severed my internal jugular.”
Fletcher called the two men who died — identified by police as Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, 23, and Ricky John Best, 53 — “true heroes” for whom the “entire city of Portland” is in mourning.
“I think that it is our civic duty to support their families in whatever way we can,” Fletcher said, adding that those men “paid the ultimate price” for trying to do the right thing.
In a previous statement, Fletcher told the city of Portland’s Muslim community that they “are loved.”
“I want the Muslim community to know that they have a home here in Portland and are loved,” the statement read. “I want to honor the families who lost their brave fathers, sons and brothers, and I want the media and the country to honor those families. I want to send my condolences and honor those families.”
Fletcher told ABC News that he made that statement because Portland has “always tried to pride itself” on being “a city of love, respect, diversity and safety for all people.”
“If we want to be that city, we need to understand that we must make sure everybody knows this is their town,” he said.
Fletcher said, growing up, he watched “a lot of people get hurt because of things that weren’t a problem,” such as race or faith.
“And the Muslim community, especially in Portland, needs to understand there are a lot of us that are not going to stand by and let anybody — whether they’re from here or not from here — scare you into thinking you can’t be a part of this town, this city, this community,” he said. “This is your country, this is your town, these are your people. These streets are yours just as much as they are mine.”
Christian appeared to defend his actions during a brief court appearance on Tuesday afternoon, shouting, “Free speech or die” and “You call it terrorism, I call it patriotism” to the crowd, which included Fletcher.
He was charged with two counts of aggravated murder, one count of attempted aggravated murder, first-degree assault, three counts of unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of second-degree intimidation, according to the initial charging document filed in court by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office.
Christian did not enter a plea during his first appearance Tuesday, and he is set to be formally arraigned on June 7, Lane Borg, executive director of Metropolitan Public Defenders, told ABC News. Borg did not offer a comment or statement on regarding Tuesday’s court appearance.
Public defender Gregory Scholl has been assigned to Christian’s case, Borg said.
In the wake of the attack, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler is asking the federal government to cancel a permit for what he called an “alt-right” rally scheduled for this Sunday, saying the event could make a difficult situation worse.
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